BMD Watch: THAAD exo-atmosphere success

By MARTIN SIEFF, UPI Senior News Analyst  |  Oct. 31, 2007 at 2:46 PM
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WASHINGTON, Oct. 31 (UPI) -- The U.S. Missile Defense Agency carried out a successful test of its Terminal High Altitude Area Defense interceptor system Saturday.

MDA Director Lt. Gen. Henry “Trey” Obering said in a statement that the THAAD interceptor had successfully destroyed a ballistic missile target at the Pacific Missile Range Facility off the island of Kauai in Hawaii.

"Preliminary indications are that planned flight test objectives were achieved. The intercept involved the 'exo-atmospheric' -- outside Earth’s atmosphere -- 'hit to kill' destruction of a unitary -- non-separating -- target representing a 'SCUD'-type ballistic missile launched from a mobile platform positioned off Kauai in the Pacific Ocean," the MDA said.

"This was the 31st successful 'hit to kill' intercept in 39 tests since 2001 by ground and sea-based interceptors against short, medium and long-range ballistic missile targets," the MDA said.

"The primary objective of this test was to demonstrate integrated operations of the system, including radar, launcher, fire control equipment and procedures, and the interceptor to detect, track and destroy the target missile using only the force of a direct collision between the interceptor and the target missile -- hit to kill technology. Other objectives included demonstrating performance of an interceptor that had been 'hot conditioned,' or heated to a certain temperature before launching; and demonstrating the ability of the interceptor to perform correctly in the 'endgame,' or final seconds before target intercept. The ability of soldiers from the U.S. Army to conduct launcher, fire control and radar operations was also observed," the agency said.

"This was the fourth successful intercept for the current THAAD program in four tests and the third test of the THAAD system at Pacific Missile Range Facility," the MDA said.

"The first test at the Pacific Missile Range Facility was a successful high-endo-atmospheric -- just inside Earth’s atmosphere -- intercept of a SCUD-type unitary target in January of this year. The second test this past April, also a success, involved the intercept of a 'mid endo-atmospheric' -- inside Earth’s atmosphere -- unitary target representing a 'SCUD'-type ballistic missile," it said.

"Soldiers of the 6th Air Defense Artillery Brigade stationed at Fort Bliss, Texas, operated all THAAD equipment during all tests, conducting operations of the launcher, fire control and communications and radar. Their interaction with the complete THAAD system provided valuable test and operations experience for the soldiers, and contributed to the operational realism of the tests," the MDA said.

The MDA described THAAD as "the first weapon system with both endo-atmospheric and exo-atmospheric capability developed specifically to defend against short-, medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles."

"The THAAD system will provide high-altitude missile defense over a larger area than the complementary Patriot system, and, like the Patriot, intercepts a ballistic missile target in the 'terminal' phase of flight -- the final minute or so when the hostile missile falls toward the Earth at the end of its flight. Patriot and THAAD, as well as the long-range Ground-based Mid-course Defense and the sea-based Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense, all use 'hit to kill' technology," it said.

Boeing picks Fancher to head MDS programs

Boeing has chosen Scott Fancher to be the next vice president and general manager of its Missile Defense System. Fancher, who started his new job on Oct. 16, took over from Patrick Shanahan, who has moved over to run the 787 Dreamliner program in Boeing Commercial Airplanes.

"In his new position, Fancher reports directly to Roger Krone, president, Network and Space Systems, and oversees 3,900 people in nine major operating locations, providing integrated missile defense solutions for all phases of ballistic missile threats," Boeing said in a statement this month.

"Missile Defense Systems is involved in developing several key advanced missile defense and directed energy technologies and systems, including the Ground-based Mid course Defense system, the Airborne Laser, the Advanced Tactical Laser, Integrated Missile Defense, Directed Energy Systems and the Missile Defense National Team Systems Engineering and Integration organizations," the company said.

Boeing said that Fancher had served more than a quarter of a century with the company. In that time, he "held various executive leadership positions in engineering and program management. In his most recent assignment, he was vice president and program director for the Ground-based Mid-course Defense program. Before that, he was vice president for the Airborne Laser and Laser/Electra-optics," the company said.

"Scott's ability to set high expectations, inspire his teams and deliver results will help him build upon the successes of Missile Defense Systems under the leadership of Pat Shanahan," Krone said.

Boeing said Fancher's successor on the Ground-based Mid-course Defense program had yet to be revealed.

Fancher started out as a legislative assistant to U.S. Sen. John Glenn, D-Ohio, the first U.S. astronaut to orbit the Earth. Fancher "holds a bachelor of science in electrical engineering from Purdue University and a master of science in electrical engineering from Washington University. He also has a master of business administration from Washington University's Executive MBA program," Boeing said.

Fancher's promotion reflects his achievement in overseeing major improvements in engineering reliability and a successful ICBM interception test last year on the GIB program.

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